Project conception and theoretical framework

In theoretical and conceptual terms, the project draws on approaches from the field of women’ studies, men’s studies, and gender studies that are also referred to in the debate over gender mainstreaming, in order to explain both the concept of gender and the strategy of gender mainstreaming. In the processes involved in gender mainstreaming, it is not possible to dispense with precise analyses of social inequality in the relationship between men and women; the gender-related substructure of an organization (Döge/Meuser 2001) and traditional, out-of-date gender arrangements in institutions (Krüger 2002), for example, can only be abolished once they have been made visible. Additional theoretical and conceptual reference points therefore also include approaches drawn from the field of organizational development and human resources development (Preskill/Toress 1999).

In the context of gender mainstreaming, the concept of gender equality also needs to be worked out in detail and filled with content in intensive processes of discourse and negotiation as a new criterion of relevance for child and youth welfare services, so that it can be implemented both on the staffing and organizational levels, as well as at the level of specialist educational work. For organizations, implementing gender mainstreaming means that a new regulatory principle has to be institutionalized – i.e., there is a new ‘difficult criterion of relevance’ (Heiner 1998: 45). The intention is that the question of equal-rights policy should be placed at the centre of organizational and political action as a result of gender mainstreaming. Organizations find that concretizing this principle in ‘interventions that are practicable in everyday life’ (cf. Heiner 1998) represents a challenge. It is not possible to deduce approaches to action simply from the principle alone. If an organization is thought of as being a ‘learning’ organization, then individual learning, negotiation processes, and ‘collective’ learning need to be linked on the basis of establishing reflexive processes – i.e., constant evaluative thinking within the organization. Organizational development is a self-reflexive process that can give rise to cultural change if the predominant social and internal organizational norms are questioned.

Scientific monitoring of the implementation of gender mainstreaming in organizations financially supported by the KJP has a dual task: it links ‘development-oriented research/supervision of practical work’ with the aim of checking the implementation of statutory measures – i.e., in this case with the question of the way in which the requirement to implement gender mainstreaming laid down in the KJP promotion guidelines is being met. It is therefore located at a complex interface in the field of tension between policy-making and practical work, and this needs to be reflected in the research process.

The aim of the project so far has been to register the extent to which gender mainstreaming has been implemented in state-aided youth organizations and to identify which conditions promote or inhibit its implementation. The task of the DJI project was to carry out scientific monitoring of the organizations in developing, testing and permanently putting in place the implementation strategies and procedures involved in gender mainstreaming – by providing analysis, information, feedback of research results, and documentation. In collaboration with the participating bodies, the DJI project elaborated examples of the ways in which gender mainstreaming can be taken up, understood, and implemented in various organizations (and by various office-holders) involved in child and youth welfare.

The results show that gender mainstreaming has by and large been accepted as a requirement by the bodies that receive support through the Child and Youth Plan and that apparently only a few organizations are still avoiding it. Gender mainstreaming appears to have been accepted as a specialist challenge. In continuing developments and during further elaboration of the content of the implementation process, however, new hurdles and obstacles emerge: ‘Why should a project on ecology have anything to do with gender?’; ‘We can’t get anyone to do voluntary work’ – these and similar statements are received as feedback. In this respect, the ‘change agents’ – i.e., those who are responsible for implementation, including people in organizations that are already pursuing gender mainstreaming at various levels of their specialist work and/or in the staffing and organizational field – indicate that there is a need for further support in the implementation process.

Now that the principle of gender mainstreaming appears to have been accepted, its implementation has reached the stage of ‘ploughing through the plains’ [Mühen der Ebenen, title of a book by the German writer Rolf Schwendter]. The child and youth plan, for example, challenges experts to establish gender references in whatever their current topic is (ranging from ecology to the work of the social assistance services, in the planning of youth camps, trips for young people and/or conference meetings and dance projects, in advice to young people with vocational problems, in projects dealing with intercultural issues, etc.). Even when the experts concerned are relatively open to the idea, the question arises of how exactly the perspective that gender has to be taken into account can be made into an integral component of their work – i.e., how it can be integrated into their specialist topics.

Another open question in the process of implementing gender mainstreaming, which is related to the one discussed above, emerges among associations in which volunteers provide essential work – i.e., in youth associations in particular. The task of the national bodies in such organizations is to carry out coordination and provide suggestions, as well as to provide representation at the political level for the organization’s voluntary workers. Common social and political positions also have to be developed and decided on at the national level. However, it is not possible to establish positions and political programmes – such as gender mainstreaming, for example – on a top-down basis, moving from the central organizational level down to the voluntary workers at the grass roots. The problem of how to communicate the idea of gender mainstreaming within organizations that mainly have a volunteer structure is therefore proving to be a further challenge and represents a special issue during the scientific supervision process. On the one hand, it is necessary to identify what the volunteers who work in youth welfare organizations require, and where resistance and reservations arise, so that at the national level the organization is aware of what its youth leaders need in order to implement gender mainstreaming as a meaningful approach in their youth work and in their civic involvement. On the other hand, it is necessary to find convincing ways of organizing the transfer of programmatic demands such as gender mainstreaming from the national level down to the volunteer workers. In what ways can specialist gender qualifications also be promoted among volunteer workers in particular?

A central goal is to provide an overview of the obstacles and blockages to implementation – the ‘lessons learned’ (Fetterman et al. 1996) so that existing experience can be made transparent for subsequent discussions about practical matters and in order to raise the level of understanding of the problems that arise during the implementation process. By using the tool of providing information about ‘good practice’ – whether as ‘lessons learned’, ‘success stories’, case studies, or lists of ideas – the results should be documented and general processes of knowledge transfer should be made possible.


Döge, Peter/Meuser, Michael (eds.) (2001): Männlichkeit und soziale Ordnung. Neuere Beiträge zur Geschlechterforschung. Opladen: Leske + Budrich

Fetterman, David M., Kaftarian, Shakeh J., Wandersman, Abraham (eds.) (1996): Empowerment Evaluation: Knowledge and Tools for Self Assessment and Accountability. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Heiner, Maja (1998): ‘Lernende Organisation und Experimentierende Evaluation. Verheissungen Lernender Organisationen.’ In: Heiner, M. (ed.) Experimentierende Evaluation. Weinheim/München: Juventa, pp. 11–54

Krüger, Helga (2002): ‘Gesellschaftsanalyse: der Institutionenansatz in der Geschlechterforschung.’ In: Knapp, G. A./Wetterer, A. (eds): Soziale Verortung der Geschlechter. Gesellschaftstheorie und feministische Kritik. Münster: Westfälisches Dampfboot, pp. 63–90

Preskill, Hallie S., Torres, Rosalie T. (1999): Evaluative Inquiry for Learning in Organizations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage


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